Mollifying the Game

A few weekends ago, I went skiing. It is a pastime that I enjoy because I like to be near and on mountains, but oftentimes the terrain I crave is covered in snow and that makes being on them slippery and difficult.

Skiing is a relatively recent pick up for me, and though I was staying with some friends, they were all far more skilled than I. As a result, I left them to their zigzagging through trees and dare deviling in terrain parks and spent the majority of my time in areas that are less prone to death. I've managed and lucked my way into avoiding ever suffering a serious injury and though I'm not going around ensconced in bubble wrap, I do prefer to avoid hospitals and surgery as best as I can.

As a result, up and down I went through many a mogul field that day. And because of that by the end of the day, my legs were severely tired. From the first lift up at eight in the morning until a point roughly at a quarter to four in the afternoon I had taken no breaks. I know it was overwhelmingly likely to be my last day skiing for the season and I wanted to cram as much in as I could. Then I stood near the top of the peak, reading a run map and plotting my final run down.

I had little choice but to route my way along the most southern-facing side in order to end up back where I needed. And unfortunately, it had been a weekend of almost zero cloud cover and absolutely mild temperatures. By the late afternoon the snow cover on the southern, sun-facing runs had turned to slush.

I'm unsure what caused the slip. My leg strength was nearly on empty. The gleam of the sun off the refractive snow mush was in my eyes. The run was especially crowded and I was concerned more with the locations of skiers and boarders in my vicinity than the integrity of the snow I was bearing down on. Lastly, my focus was distracted by the ever-nearer presence of après ski. The singular or combination of causes is ultimately of no matter to anything other than my pride.

The effect was that I found myself suddenly much more in contact with the mountainside than I had been just a moment earlier and sliding at a rapid and increasing pace. No matter, I managed to reorient myself ski-first, but instead of arresting my slide, I let it continue, morphing into a modified glissade. If you've never glissaded before, go forth and seek out an opportunity. It's among the most exhilarating times I've had.

Right up to the moment when the sticky snow caught the zipper on my front right side pocket and somehow yanked it down and I heard jangling as my keys spilled out and stopped their up-to-then paired movement with me. I rather needed those keys. As abruptly as I could, I put a stop to my travels but I still ended up roughly 30 feet below where my keys were resting, glinting in the dipping sunlight.

Normally, in terms of mountain mishaps, that's a totally minor one. It would be tiring to cross-step back up to retrieve them, but it would be doable. This wasn't a normal circumstance though. I could get absolutely no traction against the slope. Attempting to do so actually cost me another five feet of elevation. I leaned back, staring at the blue sky, cursed the missing clouds and pondered my options.

Little choice left, I ditched the skis and began a four-point scramble. If you've skied before, you might recognize how difficult it is to do anything requiring dexterity in ski boots. If you haven't, imagine trying to climb up a playground slide after a good rain while your feet are encased in mob-style concrete shoes. It was slow and exhausting going.

I had climbed roughly half the needed distance and was now drenched in sweat, annoying trapped by the layers of jackets, when the first Good Samaritan arrived. Stopping above me, he scooped up my keys and then skidded down to me and handed them off. A brief exchange of thanks and assurances that I was bowed, but not broken, took place and off he went.

I now faced the task of recovering my skis. Again not normally that even qualifies as an issue, but the same impediments faced in climbing up were in place in stopping on the way down. Short story shorter, I ended up about 20 feet below and slightly off line to my equipment. Sigh. Of course. I had another climb to undertake now.

Then Good Samaritan number two arrived on scene. A girl probably near 10 stopped near my skis and inquired as to my well being and then carefully and helpfully slid them down to me. Then she picked up my poles and moved down to hand them off. It seems silly now in the relaxed comfort of home, but at the time, it was one of the happiest moments I've felt in recent memory. I had all my gear back thanks to the unsolicited assistance two different strangers.

When I finally re-joined my friends afterwards, I learned as we swapped stories from the day, that another person had faced a similar situation. He had lost his phone mid-run and worst, he didn't know it. It was only due to the effort of yet another stranger who saw the phone drop, picked it up and pursued him to return it that he got it back. He had had a terrific day of boarding on the mountain, but he was the absolutely happiest about the kindness and effort of a stranger to get him his phone back.

There are certainly more far-reaching examples of charity out there, but these were so immediate, personal and actually kind of ordinary that they've been stuck in my mind ever since. Similarly, last night's baseball game was not, in any grand scheme of things, overwhelmingly a negative experience. It's just a baseball game. But I felt so dispirited afterward. The buildup for the new season, the circumstance of a home opener and Felix Hernandez's dominance in the first few innings had built up my expectations only to be slowly, relentlessly crushed under a steamroller. It was a frustrating reminder that the Mariners of 2010 and 2011 are not completely past us.

I found myself standing behind a young woman at an ATM soon afterward. I wasn't paying particularly close attention at the time, but she seemed a bit harried, in a rush to get the transaction over with and be on her way. Based in part on her simultaneous cell phone conversation, I suspect that she was trying to catch up with friends.

She hustled off after finishing and that's when I noticed that she had left her card behind in the machine. It took a second to kick in, but then I grabbed her card and jogged after her. I'm not sure what kind of instinct kicks in for woman when they hear a man coming after them yelling at them to stop, but luckily she didn't flee and I was able to give her back her card.

Unsurprisingly, she was thankful, but what I noticed after when I got back to the ATM and refilled my own cash supply, was how much better I now felt. The negative feelings from watching that awful three hours of baseball had been dulled and replaced with a pleasing glow from having helped someone, even a stranger, avoid a potentially awful future situation.

My point isn't to gloat about how awesome of a person I am, I'm truly not, but rather to proffer an alternative if you were still dogged by gloom. If last night's game, or any game, or anything, leaves you feeling dejected then perhaps a quick fix antidote to those doldrums is to find something to do for someone else. Even just something small. This is far more emotionally themed than usual for me, but hey, I felt better. And with 153 games still to come, a strategy for feeling better after punchless, boring baseball games is worth sharing I think.

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